The continent sees a number of copy and paste business models that fail to provide relevant solutions to its people.
“Africa today presents the greatest long-term business opportunities anywhere in the world because we have a massive burgeoning population which will continue to grow, which means those people are going to need goods and services, so that also presents opportunities but I think the key is, are we creating business models and solutions that are relevant to Africa or are we copy pasting without adaptation?
Copy pasting without the contextual knowledge wouldn’t yield business models that are actually relevant to everyday people’s lives in the continent.”
The co-founder of FreshBakery, shared her thoughts and experience on how to successfully build and operate businesses in Africa during an interview on BBC’s Focus on Africa hosted by Ghanaian journalist Akwasi Sarpong.
Lucy Quist, who has a decade-long experience leading businesses across the continent, mentioned a number of key factors both local and foreign entrepreneurs, as well as business executives, need to consider before starting businesses in Africa.
She explained that acquiring contextual knowledge was necessary to enable businesses appreciate, not only the needs of the people but also the cultural settings in which they operate.
“If we take a step back to understand why people do things the way they do we’ll be able to find ways to adjust or we will be able to engage them and help them evolve in the way they do things. So contextual knowledge is extremely important.
Every business has certain global metrics and standards that it works towards achieving; productivity, return on investment, profitability, but to be able to take people along with you to achieve these you need to be able to understand their culture and merge it with your strategic business operations.”
She also stressed on the issue of separating facts from fiction before coming to do business in Africa. By looking at the real figures on growth, access, challenges on the continent, business people will be able to get a true picture of the challenges and opportunities available in various parts of the continent instead of making with certain blanket assumptions that may not be factual.
On challenges on the continent such as currency fluctuation, Lucy Quist suggested relying on local inputs as a way of protecting businesses from external shocks of currency.
“Most at times what happens is that we end up with businesses that are very dependent on inputs from outside of the countries we are operating in so currency fluctuations have a big hit on our business. Why don’t we try and find and nurture local ventures and local suppliers so that we keep our spend within the economy. It doesn’t eliminate all the currency risk, it just reduces it for us and help us manage it better.
We are creating many business models that are entirely based on importing things now how about looking at models that rely on local ecosystems.”
Lucy Quist is the President of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Ghana and co-founder of Fresh Bakery, the parent company of the FreshPay payment platform in the Democratic Republic of Congo.